Control Idle Time
BY Evan Triggs
When you feel passionate about a product or service, you’ll use it wherever you go. That’s what Richard Fuist did after he joined Jon M Hall, a site utility contractor in central Florida, as a fleet operations manager. After settling into his new office, Fuist’s first call was to get his 500-person crew, 220 pieces of construction equipment, and 170 on-road assets equipped with construction fleet management software. Once he got the green light, Fuist next turned to helping Jon M Hall save money in their daily operations.
For Fuist, the company culture shift started with educating his co-workers. He explained that most workers don’t realize how much it costs to leave the air conditioning running in a vehicle while waiting for a haul truck to arrive or while going in to get lunch.
Industry research indicates that off-road assets average an hour of excessive idle per machine per day, at a cost of roughly $50 per hour (including fuel, services and depreciation). Aggregate that across a fleet and the savings potential is staggering.
Fuist knew this first-hand after using Fleetwatcher Material Management Solution (MMS) by Earthwave Technologies, Indianapolis, at a previous company to curb idling.
“My first year, I reduced the idle time 23,000 hours total in equipment, and that equated to about just over $1 million in cut costs.” Nearly $300,000 of that amount was in immediate fuel savings, while another chunk came in the form of lowering equipment operating costs.
“By reducing idle time, you slow down depreciation, you slow down accelerated hour accumulation, which allows you to keep the equipment longer in your fleet making money. Your operating expenses will be reduced annually, from fuel savings, extending PM schedules, diesel particulate filter changes, major repairs and so on,” Fuist explained.
FleetWatcher’s Escalating Idle Alerts proactively informs managers via text or email when equipment has been idling for too long, based on a pre-set threshold, allowing personnel to take immediate corrective action.
Here’s How it Works
FleetWatcher monitors and alerts managers with a text or email when a pre-set threshold has been reached. Users set an “excessive idle alert” parameter into a three-tier threshold. Fuist sets his threshold every 15 minutes. When that first threshold has been reached, an alert is sent via email or text every 5 minutes to the foreman.
If the unit continues to idle and the second threshold is reached, a second threshold alert is sent to the foreman, superintendent, maybe also a project manager or equipment manager every 5 minutes.
If the alerts haven’t been dealt with reaching the 45-minute window, the third threshold alert is sent to the general superintendent and the owner of the company—a guy most folks don’t want to be advised of this sort of situation.
The parameters and alerting structure are completely customizable by the user.
Fuist stated loaders are the worst offenders in idle time in the heavy construction business. For example, he told the story of a 5-year-old Cat 938 loader he’d had before implementing FleetWatcher. While at the Cat dealership for repairs, Fuist had them download the ECM data and report back. What he found was out of 8,849 total time hours on the machine, 5,340 of those hours were idle time.
“That means 60% of the machine’s life was strictly idling,” Fuist said. “Imagine the waste of operating costs with that kind of idle time, because you certainly aren’t making money with that machine sitting at idle 60% of its life.”
He shared that some of the financial burdens of 5,340 hours idle time include:
- multiple 500-hour and 1,000-hour PM services;
- 2 gals an hour at $3.50 average fuel cost = $37,380;
- diesel particulate filter replacement; and
- accelerated depreciation.
“If idle time could be reduced to 25%, the life of this machine could be extended for another 4-6 years, saving replacement cost.”
Escalating Idle Alert is just one data collection feature of the FleetWatcher telematics platform. Data can be integrated with other business systems such as accounting, estimating and job cost systems, bringing everything together for a more comprehensive view. FleetWatcher tracks multiple data points including cycle times, productivity and downtime, equipment use and underuse, exact location of each piece of equipment, project status, budgets, shop costs, rental expenses, and trends and behaviors.
Data Leads to Better Use
In his quest to educate his co-workers, Fuist has leveraged data at every turn to help Jon M Hall make informed decisions. “I send out equipment utilization reports daily. We always try to use this information to better utilize our company equipment.”
This daily report, pulled with FleetWatcher, allows Fuist to break down all company assets by category, such as all excavators, dumps or loaders, to see companywide use.
This information has been useful to reference whenever the company has considered renting another piece of equipment for a job, Fuist explained. Before deciding to rent a machine, they can check their reports to ensure they’re using their own equipment to its full potential.
By looking at utilization reports, Fuist and his team can not only determine if they need to rent an additional piece of equipment, but also if they can move equipment between job sites as well. “It’s about awareness. It brings awareness to the company on our utilization. It brings awareness to the jobs on how they are doing. The upper management are totally onboard with the reports, too. They see what’s going on companywide and if they have any questions, they can call the superintendent or foreman directly.”
After saving his previous company $1 million in reduced operating costs, Fuist knew he had to bring Earthwave’s FleetWatcher telematics tool to Jon M Hall as well. In the 11 years that followed, he’s helped educate the company using real-time data on use and idle time. This crusade has helped the company cut operating costs and be more strategic in their equipment decisions. You can’t fake passion and Fuist is passionate about his telematics tool.
Evan Triggs is the vice president of Earthwave Technologies. For more information, contact him at email@example.com.